Pirated software opens UAE to hackers



DUBAI // The use of pirated software is a main cause of the high number of malware attacks in the UAE, cyber-security experts warn.

They say users who install illegal versions of Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X operating systems leave themselves open to hackers because they do not have access to security updates.

They warn of a growing threat of Zero Day viruses, for which there is no protection. They are undetectable and often used against businesses and organisations.

Nicolai Solling, director of technology services at the cyber-security consultancy Help AG Middle East, said: "The Middle East has this issue where people are more willing to use this kind of counterfeit software.

“What they don’t realise is that they do not get access to the regular security patches.”

A study by the internet-security firm Kaspersky found the UAE had the second-highest rate of detected malware on computers.

Mr Solling said it was vital that operating systems were secure, but in the battle between software makers and hackers, the hackers were often a step ahead.

"The money invested in the black economy to create viruses is much higher than the resources available for those trying to stop them," Mr Solling said.

"There are malware kits available that allow virtually anyone to easily create their own computer virus. It's become that easy now."

Experts warn that in the coming year there is likely to be a growing threat from Zero Day viruses, which work so fast that by the time protection can be developed it is often too late.

The Gauss virus, found in May to be stealing bank passwords in the UAE as well as Lebanon, Palestine and Saudi Arabia, is an example of malware. It was a variant of the Stuxnet virus that targeted Iran's nuclear programme.

"Stuxnet contained 20 Zero Day viruses," said Fadi Aloul, associate professor of computer science at American University of Sharjah. "These viruses are sold on the black market for about US$100,000 [Dh367,300]."

Mr Aloul said the best way to protect against such attacks is to be careful when installing programs and using only trusted sources.

He said smartphones and tablet computers would become the next big targets for hackers.

"People have gigabits of data on their phones these days, everything from email addresses, to bank account numbers to social-networking contacts. And yet, these devices have no anti-virus or protection and that is a big concern."

He said the rapid increase in internet use in the UAE and the Middle East in recent years meant cyber security was scrambling to catch up.

The Kaspersky analysis of users of its products in the country found that on average they had 22 malware programs on their computers.

"We counted the average number of malicious programs that have been detected and blocked per each user of Kaspersky Security Network in these countries for the third quarter of 2012," said a spokesperson for the company.

The number of viruses blocked or removed on UAE computers was more than two times the average in North America.

The vast majority of infections were the result of visiting unsafe websites and opening infected email attachments.

More than a quarter of people surfing the internet in the UAE also suffered malware attacks.

"Since attacks on the web take place through the browser, cyber criminals need to exploit vulnerabilities in the browser, in browser add-ons [Flash Player], or in third-party software [such as Java or Acrobat Reader] which is used by the browser to process content," said the report.

"The main purpose of exploit packs is to download and launch executable malicious files without the user noticing."

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Regular contact with wildlife is the most appealing part of her role at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

She loves to explore new destinations and lives by her motto of being a voice in the world, and not an echo.

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July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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Tax authority targets shisha levy evasion

The Federal Tax Authority will track shisha imports with electronic markers to protect customers and ensure levies have been paid.

Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director of the tax authority, on Sunday said the move is to "prevent tax evasion and support the authority’s tax collection efforts".

The scheme’s first phase, which came into effect on 1st January, 2019, covers all types of imported and domestically produced and distributed cigarettes. As of May 1, importing any type of cigarettes without the digital marks will be prohibited.

He said the latest phase will see imported and locally produced shisha tobacco tracked by the final quarter of this year.

"The FTA also maintains ongoing communication with concerned companies, to help them adapt their systems to meet our requirements and coordinate between all parties involved," he said.

As with cigarettes, shisha was hit with a 100 per cent tax in October 2017, though manufacturers and cafes absorbed some of the costs to prevent prices doubling.

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